Personal Experience to Practice: Protecting Healthcare Workers from Violence

Northwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety Occupational Health Nursing trainee, Katie Blanchard, is pursuing research to help prevent fellow nurses and healthcare workers from experiencing workplace violence.

April 6, 2020

My interest in workplace violence comes from a horrific life experience and the journey to recovery afterwards. On 7 September 2016 while working as a nurse supervisor at a small military hospital at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas I was brutally attacked in my office by a hospital employee that I had supervised. I suffered from 18% total surface area burns to my head, neck, and arms. I struggled both physically and mentally to regain a glimmer of the life that I had once had as I recovered from the attack.


Prior to the attack there had been direct and indirect threats, warning signs of workplace violence, and non-physical violence that had been tolerated by the organization I was working for. The lack of action and accountability allowed the situation to escalate, no protections were put in place to ensure my safety even though I had requested security and administrative interventions throughout the year I was forced to work with the employee.


After the attack, like most victims, I was left with the question of why did this happen. I dove into the research literature into workplace violence and found that there were several knowledge gaps and a lack of interventions to prevent workplace violence. This motivated me to not only continue my education and pursue a path of education and research but also interweave my own experience to inform change and advocate for primary prevention.


During my time in the Army’s Wounded Warrior Unit I was able to serve on committees to inform workplace violence policy, advocate change, and share my testimony of workplace violence. I was very fortunate to have two amazing mentors Dr. Patsy Maloney and Dr. Pam Cipriano who encouraged me to continue my education and follow my passion to pursue workplace violence research and policy development. I moved from the San Antonio where I was being treated for my burn injuries to Washington to attend school at the University of Washington.


I am pursing a PhD in Nursing Research with a research topic of workplace violence prevention, as well as looking forward to finishing my last quarter of University of Washington, Tacoma’s MN program with an emphasis on nursing education. In the future I plan on focusing in on primary prevention measures for workplace violence.


My research is focused on type II violence risk matrix to inform preventative interventions before workplace violence occurs. I also provide workplace violence education and interventional training throughout the country, speaking at regional and national conferences. I want to focus on generating research that informs policy change, education, and prevention of workplace violence. My work is driven by my hope that employees have access to safe working environments and that if needed they have a comprehensive system of prevention to protect them from violence at their place of work.


Author: Katie Blanchard, Occupational Health Nursing NWCOHS trainee


Katie Blanchard's Workplace Violence Testimony/Educational video: